montefiore waited for a later and more somnolent hour of the night; then, in spite of his reflections, he descended the stairs without boots, armed with his pistols, moving step by step, stopping to question the silence, putting forth his hands, measuring the stairs, peering into the darkness, and ready at the slightest incident to fly back into his room. the italian had put on his handsomest uniform; he had perfumed his black hair, and now shone with the particular brilliancy which dress and toilet bestow upon natural beauty. under such circumstances most men are as feminine as a woman.
why, socrates, i always thought it was expected of students of philosophy to grow in happiness daily; but you seem to have reaped other fruits from your philosophy. at any rate, you exist, i do not say live, in a style such as no slave serving under a master would put up with. your meat and your drink are of the cheapest sort, and as to clothes, you cling to one wretched cloak which serves you for summer and winter alike; and so you go the whole year round, without shoes to your feet or a shirt to your back. then again, you are not for taking or making money, the mere seeking of which is a pleasure, even as the possession of it adds to the sweetness and independence of existence. i do not know whether you follow the common rule of teachers, who try to fashion their pupils in imitation of themselves, and propose to mould the characters of your companions; but if you do you ought to dub yourself professor of the art of wretchedness.
thus challenged, socrates replied: one thing to me is certain, antiphon; you have conceived so vivid an idea of my life of misery that for yourself you would choose death sooner than live as i do. suppose now we turn and consider what it is you find so hard in my life. is it that he who takes payment must as a matter of contract finish the work for which he is paid, whereas i, who do not take it, lie under no constraint to discourse except with whom i choose? do you despise my dietary on the ground that the food which i eat is less wholesome and less stengthening than yours, or that the articles of my consumption are so scarce and so much costlier to procure than yours? or have the fruits of your marketing a flavour denied to mine? do you not know the sharper the appetite the less the need of sauces, the keener the thirst the less the desire for out-of-the-way drinks? and as to raiment, clothes, you know, are changed on account of cold or else of heat. people only wear boots and shoes in order not to gall their feet and be prevented walking. now i ask you, have you ever noticed that i keep more within doors than others on account of the cold? have you ever seen me battling with any one for shade on account of the heat? do you not know that even a weakling by nature may, by dint of exercise and practice, come to outdo a giant who neglects his body? he will beat him in the particular point of training, and bear the strain more easily. but you apparently will not have it that i, who am forever training myself to endure this, that, and the other thing which may befall the body, can brave all hardships more easily than yourself for instance, who perhaps are not so practised. and to escape slavery to the belly or to sleep or lechery, can you suggest more effective means than the possession of some powerful attraction, some counter-charm which shall gladden not only in the using, but by the hope enkindled of its lasting usefulness? and yet this you do know; joy is not to him who feels that he is doing well in nothing--it belongs to one who is persuaded that things are progressing with him, be it tillage or the working of a vessel, or any of the thousand and one things on which a man may chance to be employed. to him it is given to rejoice as he reflects, "i am doing well." but is the pleasured derived from all these put together half as joyous as the consciousness of becoming better oneself, of acquiring better and better friends? that, for my part, is the belief i continue to cherish.
again, if it be a question of helping one's friends or country, which of the two will have the larger leisure to devote to these objects--he who leads the life which i lead to-day, or he who lives in the style which you deem so fortunate? which of the two will adopt a soldier's life more easily--the man who cannot get on without expensive living, or he to whom whatever comes to hand suffices? which will be the readier to capitulate and cry "mercy" in a siege--the man of elaborate wants, or he who can get along happily with the readiest things to hand? you, antiphon, would seem to suggest that happiness consists of luxury and extravagance; i hold a different creed. to have no wants at all is, to my mind, an attribute of godhead; to have as few wants as possible the nearest approach to godhead; and as that which is divine is mightiest, so that is next mightiest which comes closest to the divine.
there stands the boat - there goes it over, perhaps into vast nothingness - but who wills to enter into this "perhaps"? none of you want to enter into the death boat! how should you then be world weary ones! world weary ones! and have not even withdrawn from the earth! eager did i ever find you for the earth, amorous still of your own earth weariness! not in vain does your lip hang down: - a small worldly wish still sits on it! and in your eye - floats there not a cloudlet of unforgotten earthly bliss? there are on the earth many good inventions, some useful, some pleasant: for their sake is the earth to be loved. and many such good inventions are there, that they are like woman's breasts: useful at the same time, and pleasant. you world weary ones, however! you earth idlers! you, shall one beat with stripes! with stripes shall one again make you sprightly limbs. for if you be not invalids, or decrepit creatures, of whom the earth is weary, then are you sly sloths, or dainty, sneaking pleasure cats. and if you will not again run gaily, then shall you - pass away! to the incurable shall one not seek to be a physician: thus teaches zarathustra: - so shall you pass away! but more courage is needed to make an end than to make a new verse: that do all physicians and poets know well.
sunday ccxiv bis